in the room

I’m stuck again. By stuck, I mean, I’m having trouble returning to my writing after some time away. I had bronchitis again this month, along with a nasty sinus infection that left me feverish and exhausted. I’d just started feeling better when my dad came to visit from the East Coast, which was very nice, but kept me from my laptop. My husband has been working long hours on a project that has him in a bad mood, which means more housework and childcare is falling on me. My son keeps waking up before 6am, calling our dog from his crib.

I’m tired.

I lose all my creativity and inspiration in these kind of circumstances.

It’s easy to say, I’m tired. It’s easy to say, I need a break. But a writer is the person who stays in the room, Ron Carlson wrote, and so here I am. I’m in the room, staring at the screen wondering how to continue with stories I’ve lost touch with over the past couple of weeks. I’m trying not to think about the groceries that need to be bought, and the phone call I need to make about getting the mirror fixed on our car (It was parked on our narrow street and got sideswiped. The driver’s side mirror is smashed to uselessness. The offending driver didn’t leave a note.) I’m thinking about my dentist appointment, my husband’s upcoming business trips, and how I’m having a bad hair month.

But I’m in the room. I’m trying to think about birds, because one of my short stories is about a girl who finds a “journal of birds” – it belonged to her aunt, who has recently died. The story is requiring me to research bird calls and bird behavior. I have a hefty guide to the birds of North America on my desk. I flip through it often, looking at the pictures, the maps of birds’ habitats. I find it strange that the guide includes birds that have gone extinct, like the Carolina Parakeet. I imagine a strange, unpopulated East Coast with squawking green birds outnumbering mild-mannered sparrows.

I’ve got two short stories in progress that I was very excited about, and another I’m hoping to revise before June to meet a submission deadline. When I’m stuck I find it hard to settle down and focus on one thing. I open all these documents and read over what I’ve written so far. How do I get back to where I was going? Where was I going?  Where were my characters going?

I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’m in the room. Where these stories were going will become where these stories are going, because I’m back in the room. I’m thinking about birds, and the real-life famous physicist who enters the fiction of my other story, and the foreign setting of the third one I need to revise.

The car mirror is starting to seem less important, and I don’t care about our empty fridge.

I’m in the room.

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4 thoughts on “in the room

  1. Congrats for staying in the room! I went to hear Daniel Alarcon read from the book he edited, The Secret Miracle, on Tuesday, and he said on top of his computer he has a sign that says, “Sientate” – sit down (I probably spelled that wrong). One thing I do when I’m really stuck and unmotivated and unfocused and don’t know where to begin is to just reread what I have. Then I notice things that need to be fixed adn before I know it, I’m writing.

  2. For some reason it takes me several days of rereading what I have before I can get going again. I usually have to just open a new document and write something – anything, a description of the room, whatever – to get writing again.

  3. Definitely hanging in there, or restarting, is the key. What’s neat about writing is that when you are going and stuff happens, the creative stuff, good new stuff, that isn’t like you imagined it (I want one lyrical sentence after another), but is just right.

  4. Pingback: snow in June, stories in July « Fog City Writer

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